NYFF 2011. Julia Loktev's "The Loneliest Planet"

"The title of Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet refers to the rocky, grassy, depopulated expanse of the Caucasus Mountains traversed by a young, Western couple and their Eastern (Georgian) guide," begins Andrew Schenker in Slant. "But it also refers to the emptiness of a world in which a woman must wend her way alone accompanied only by men on whom she's forced to rely for both emotional nourishment and survival. A feminist dry heave of disgust, Loktev's relationship drama skillfully parallels outer and inner landscapes as it traces its couple-in-turmoil against an alternatively foreboding and picturesque landscape, but it's somewhat less satisfying in addressing the fallout of the central crisis or in suggesting much beyond some rather obvious conclusions about male aggression."

At Fandor, Phil Coldiron dismisses any reading of the film as a feminist critique and argues instead that "The Loneliest Planet is, first and foremost, is the sharpest account of what it means to be an educated, disillusioned young American made thus far in the 21st century…. Alex (Gael García Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) are the ideal of American young adulthood today:  financially secure and professionally unburdened, they roam the world conjugating verbs (in the past tense, tellingly) and escaping all of the failings that are surely wrecking the lives of their friends back home…. Each attempt by an outsider to connect, generally in the form of sexual advances at Nica, is the equivalent of an act of war. The shattering moment of rational cowardice that marks the beginning of their relationship's end comes precisely because of Alex's inability to communicate adequately with an individual outside the scope of his experience."

Richard Brody in the New Yorker: "Loktev's staging of the crucial moment is expert; her look at the aftermath is poignant and nuanced, culminating in a nocturnal sequence that condenses a world of bitter and incommensurable experience into a single shot."

At the House Next Door, Kenji Fujisima suggests that "The Loneliest Planet plays like an idiosyncratic mix of Gus Van Sant's Gerry — another minimalist film set in a distinctive environment that doubles as a psychological landscape — and Maren Ade's Everyone Else, another drama that charts, through close observation of behavior, the dissolution and uneasy reconciliation of an initially happy couple (in a land foreign to them, no less)."

More from Ed Champion, Tom Hall (Hammer to Nail), Glenn Kenny, Aaron Krasnov (Twitch), Farran Nehme, Vadim Rizov (GreenCine Daily) and Nathaniel Rogers. Earlier: Reviews from Toronto.

On Saturday, October 8, UnionDocs will present Loktev's first feature, The Moment of Impact (1998), "a documentary that won her the Director's Award at the Sundance Film Festival," as Alt Screen notes at the top of its roundup.

Update, 10/5: Henry Stewart at the L: "The movie ends with the dismantling of a campsite: is it a metaphor for the dismantling of the characters' lives, or for the packing up of their problems? Like the meaning of that central incident, it's up to you."

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